Thursday, January 22, 2015

Did Prime Minister Abe Really Say “Counter-ISIL Fund”?

There’s a petition being circulated on—yes, I’m on its mailing list—requesting that “the Abe administration… suspend the ($200 million humanitarian) aid immediately to facilitate the rescue of the two hostages. As a private citizen, I would be willing to sign on to this if they'd refrained from finger-pointing, as in:

“Shinzo Abe’s characterization of the aid as a “counter-IsSIL fund” apparently conveyed additional hostility to Isil and triggered the threat, while the fund is actually non-military and will be used to support the refugees displaced from Iraq and Syria.”

No, with hindsight, Mr. Abe should not have cast it as part of the war effort. But the petitioners are using this occasion to make a political statement. That's no different from what they claim that Mr. Abe did, except that they are doing it in full knowledge of the situation of the hostages. Moreover, the Saturday speech in Cairo that they apparently are referring to has nothing to that effect. The closest thing that I can find to the petitioners’ claim is the following:

“A stable Middle East that is vibrant. A stable Middle East backed by the spirit of Khair Al-Umuri Ausatoha. A stable Middle East where people can live without anxiety.

“Japan’s assistance always aims at no less than restoring stability in the region. I cannot help but wish for the people of Egypt and for the people throughout the region to be aware of that.

“Let us just imagine how much potential you could unleash in Egypt, in the region, once your society has restored stability and again ensured the path towards growth. Japan wishes to be a never-failing running mate to you as you work towards that future.

“That all said, here, to you, I will make another pledge. The Government of Japan will newly carry out assistance of 2.5 billion U.S. dollars in non-military fields including humanitarian assistance and infrastructure development, intended for the entire region.”

Does that sound like a “counter-ISIL fund” to you?

By making a political statement against Mr. Abe instead of focusing solely on the humanitarian nature of the aid, the petitioners are chasing away well-meaning conservatives who might otherwise sign on. By perpetuating what is at best a significant distortion of Mr. Abe’s statement, they are endorsing the hostage takers’ claim.

I stand ready to be corrected. In the meantime, draw your own conclusions.

Addendum: I have been corrected. Somehow, I failed to see where Mr. Abe said, "We are also going to support Turkey and Lebanon. All that, we shall do to help curb the threat ISIL poses."

I am losing my touch.


Robert Dujarric said...

As you know I'm not an Abe fan, nor do I think that western policy towards the Caliphate is effective. But I think the folks are living on another planet.

Given Japan's diplomat positioning (reliance on US Alliance, close econ ties with many Arab petro-monarchies) it can't avoid funding the anti-ISIS side even if the money is wasted/stolen. Once the US and the Saudis ask for contributions, tough for Tokyo to say no (that Saudi wahabism is one of the roots of ISIS is another issue...)

Plus, as Jun noted in a blog, ISIS funds itself through kidnappings. Japan is rich, so by definition any Caliphate business manager will try to grab them. If Japan were the poorest nation on earth, maybe Japanese would be less likely to be targeted. But does anybody want Japan to be a place where citizens starve and live short and miserable lives?

Matt D said...

Did Abe meet with Senator McCain while in Israel?

"Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will arrive in Israel Sunday as part of a regional tour, marking the first visit by a Japanese premier since 2006. In addition to Abe, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird arrived on Friday for a five day visit to Israel and the West Bank. A nine-member US bi-partisan Senate delegation, led by the new Charmian of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, will also be in Israel at the beginning of the week."


This article details the highlights of McCain's trip.

It seems hardly a coincidence they were there at the same time. McCain is the number one proponent of American military engagement in the middle-east. He argues that if the US had been more actively involved with the civil war in Syria, as well as, continuing to stay more involved in Iraq, that this would have prevented ISIL from forming. He is strongly pro-Israel.

Three thoughts occur to me:

1. It would have been strange to me if Abe had not met with McCain, as they were there at the same time—and at least in some capacity covering the same topic, ISIL and middle-east security.

2. If they had met, it would have been really conspicuous perhaps. So did they meet perhaps unofficially in some manner? Would that have been impossible?

3. Is it possible that there might have been a little US pressure on Abe to make his statement against ISIL—or is that too hypothetical? Surely, Abe wants to do whatever he can to sure up his relationship with the US.

If you've never read it, I recommend Abe's speech given to the neoconservative think tank, AEI in 2004, he states:

"The decision thus made by Prime Minister Koizumi to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq truly represents a “historic decision,” I firmly believe this to be a most profound decision resulting from deep thought given to the long-term future of the nation."


For the record, I don't see anything sinister or conspiratorial here. Abe's view is fairly well explicated and available. One might philosophically disagree, but Abe's view is fairly understandable given his conservative viewpoint.

On a separate issue, Abe brought with him to Israel 100 business leaders. I wonder if any of them were weapons manufacturers? If there were, for members of ISIL that potentially might have also caught their attention—I mean on top of McCain showing up with Abe at the same time, and then Abe making an explicit statement against ISIL.


Matt D said...

Looking around a bit more, I was able to answer my own question...



That is the *only* on-line reference I can get to this. But this meeting in Israel with McCain would be seen as provocative. How could it not be? Combine that with the the whole state visit, and then Abe's statement.

"... now that ISIL says that I'm the worst of the worst, I'm deeply honored. When I get that kind of reaction, it means that they think I'm a problem. And I want to be a problem to them. I've been told on several occasions that they view me as their greatest enemy." — John McCain


The question isn't whether there is something sinister going on here, but whether Abe considered the impact his actions and words were going to have—and whether as a representative of Japan those actions and words were appropriate. Even if he wanted to give money to support the war on ISIL he could have done his upmost to play this down. He didn't' have to announce it in a speech. He also could have avoided meeting McCain in Israel.

It seems to me, for better or worse, Abe wanted to send a clear message to ISIL. Was that really in his prerogative as Prime Minister to do so? What's the consensus in Japan about this?

Robert Dujarric said...

The Israeli angle is more complex. As the recent Israeli strikes against Hezbulah and Iranian forces, Israeli policy is focused on fighting the enemies of ISIS, not ISIS.

Jun Okumura said...


Mr. Abe’s Sisi-Abdullah-Netanyahu trifecta did not exactly spell out out I Heart IS, but I do not think that it really figured into the decision to go public with the 200 million USD demand. And the timing of his weekend Middle East visit was dictated by the exigencies of the Saga gubernatorial election and the soon-to-be-crowded legislative schedule. Mr. McCain, I’m sure, has his own scheduling requirements, not that I think IS really noticed Mr. McCain.

I can only guess as to Mr. Abe’s motives for linking the humanitarian aid to the fight against IS, but a) he is generally forthcoming when it comes to U.S.-centric alliance efforts, b) Japan has an arguably greater interest in Middle East stability from a national security viewpoint than the increasingly energy-self-sufficient U.S., and c) Japan did miss out on the Charlie Hebdo rally (complete with an improbable Natanyahu-Abbas-bookended chorus line).


Matt D said...

"Mr. McCain, I’m sure, has his own scheduling requirements, not that I think IS really noticed Mr. McCain."

ISIS would surely have caught this, because Senator McCain boasted about it on his twitter account. Check out the tweet:

The tweet states, "US delegation was glad to see #Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday in #Israel"

ISIS is very social media savvy, McCain has made himself out to be there number one enemy. Even if a significant meeting like this were, implausibly, an accident, would ISIS have regarded it as such?

I tend to think that when a political delegation meets with a world leader, takes a picture of the event and publicly boasts about it, they are trying to send a message.

ISIS could have tried to ransom off the hostages for ordinary terms, but instead they attempted to make a political statement. One can assume this was just a confused act, or one can try to theorize about what motivated it.

I'm open to alternative theories as to why ISIS thought they needed to make a statement to Japan.

Jun Okumura said...

IS is good at using social media, I’m sure, but I’m also sure that IS pays far more attention to a speech by Prime Minister Abe in Cairo in front of all those local dignitaries than a tweet from someone who is not even running for president now. Yes, Mr. McCain did run for president, but so did Adlai Stevenson. Twice.

I’m leaving it at that.